As with any industry, new business is critical to its continued success. Consequently, law firms are always looking for new avenues for finding potential clients. Lawyers, however, are subject to rules when it comes to advertising for new clients. Adhering to such rules is mandatory if firms want to steer clear of ethics rules violations. And with the proliferation of the internet, legal advertising has been forced to adjust to a new medium and more questions about the restrictions on advertising.
In many states, attorney websites are viewed as advertisements which are subject to regulation. Indeed, state bar rules of ethics and professional conduct have provisions that apply to website advertising and marketing for law firms and lawyers.
Whether it’s through law firm websites or social media platforms, online advertising is becoming one of the most common ways for lawyers to connect with clients. Unsurprisingly, the onus is on the lawyers themselves to keep abreast of changes in the law, especially in today’s digital age. Although digital marketing companies may not be aware of the bar rules, the lawyers are still obligated to make sure their websites remain in compliance.
Regardless of how attorneys choose to advertise, they must know beforehand the rules and responsibilities that apply to them. For this reason, we’ve included a few important rules to give you a general understanding of the best practices and advertising rules for lawyers.
Do Not Make False Statements
While any lawyer knows that blatant lying on their website is against the rules, any type of false or misleading statement about your services or your results or your fees may be considered unethical attorney advertising.
For instance, adjectives like “the best” or “the lowest” in advertising materials could be viewed as deceptive. While you may really believe that your firm is the best, declaring something that cannot be quantified or proven might mislead potential clients and contravene legal advertising rules.
Do Not Say You Are an Expert
In the legal profession, words are always important. So be very careful about how you refer to yourself. Even if you have a great deal of expertise in an area of law, it is still against the rules to say you are an expert unless you have been formally accredited of certified as such.
While it is perfectly acceptable to state that you focus on a particular are of the law such as divorce law, you cannot declare that you are a divorce law expert unless you’ve been certified as such in your area. Consequently, attorneys and law firms must scrutinize every word on their websites.
Do Not Directly Solicit Your Services
Believe it or not, there is a difference between advertising your legal services and soliciting your legal services. The former is allowed while the latter is generally prohibited.
While both advertising and solicitation are used to acquire business for lawyers or law firms, they differ in the way they are directed. Attorney advertising is done by or on behalf of a lawyer or law firm regarding that lawyer or firm’s services.
Attorney solicitation, on the other hand, is an advertisement created by or on behalf of a lawyer or law firm that is targeted specifically to a person or group, which can be unethical. In other words, a lawyer or firm cannot direct any ads or communication to a person who needs legal services for a certain matter and offer to provide services for that specific matter.
Essentially, attorneys must advertise their services to a general audience whether it’s online or through traditional advertising methods. Law firms are allowed, however, to respond to information requests. And they are, of course, permitted to show up organically on search engines.
With more business being conducted remotely these days, firms are relying more and more on digital marketing strategies to attract clients. For this reason, it also helps to work with a digital marketing agency that knows legal advertising rules. Many of these legal problems can be avoided if you hire a company that is aware of the bar rules in your state. If there is any doubt, consult an attorney that is familiar with the state’s bar rules of ethics and professional conduct.